Karen Swift's Body Was Found in a Cemetery Near Her Home in 2011 — What Happened?

David Swift has been charged with the 2011 murder of his first wife. He has also been charged with stalking his second wife.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

May 29 2024, Published 10:08 p.m. ET

In October 2014, three years after her daughter disappeared, Karen Swift's mother spoke with WMCA about her child's troubled marriage. Swift and her husband David Swift, were divorced for three weeks when the 44-year-old mother of four vanished. It took Carol Johnson three years to speak about her daughter and she was more than willing to point the finger at David.

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"She just wasn't happy and I don't think he was happy either, but she wasn't happy," said Johnson. After Swift's body was found, David cut off all contact with his mother-in-law. The only people who seemed concerned about finding Karen's killer were her own children. Her son Preston begged people to come forward with any information. So, what happened to Karen Swift? Here's what we know.

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What happened to Karen Swift?

According to ABC News, David told police he last saw Karen on Oct. 30, 2011, at approximately 1:30 a.m. at their home in Dyersburg, Tenn. The estranged couple was at a Halloween party earlier in the evening. When David reported her missing, authorities soon found Karen's abandoned car about a quarter mile from their home. One of the tires was slashed and Karen's purse was missing. Strangely, Karen's Halloween costume was inside the vehicle.

Karen filed for divorce from David three weeks before she disappeared, which prompted investigators to immediately turn their attention to him. He was very cooperative and wasn't named as a suspect. Karen's body was discovered six weeks later in a cemetery roughly three miles from her car. Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Box told WBBJ-TV (via ABC News) that "she had been there for some time." She was identified using dental records and it was later determined she died of blunt force trauma to the head.

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Where is David Swift now?

More than a decade after Swift was murdered, police made an arrest in August 2022, reported WMCA. On Aug. 8, 2022, David was arrested near Birmingham, Ala. after he was indicted by a Dyer County Grand Jury.

Janice Broach, a reporter for Action News 5 who covered the story back in 2011, was shocked by this arrest. She recalled how thoroughly authorities looked into David. "They did one search of the house after another, one so in-depth that they took the drywall and took some screws out of the wood in the drywall," she said.

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David had remarried and was living in Alabama. Police were surprised that he was "accused of stalking his second wife who divorced him" in early 2023, per Alabama.com. They got married in 2016, separated in June 2022, and were divorced in March 2023. After their divorce, David was reportedly "parking outside of her home at all hours of the night in western Jefferson County."

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In May 2024, David's murder trial began. In August 2022, he was charged with premeditated first-degree murder for which he pleaded not guilty, per WREG. The prosecution believes that when Karen arrived home the morning she was killed, David crushed her head against the concrete steps in front of her house. They allege he cleaned the area with bleach, relocated her body to the cemetery, moved Karen's car, and then slashed its tires.

David's attorneys claim he couldn't have physically done any of this as he had just injured his knee and was walking on crutches. When asked about why he didn't immediately report his wife missing, his lawyers said it was "not unlike Karen to get up and leave." They also maintain there is no forensic evidence connecting David to the murder. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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